On The Campaign Couch ... with JB

By Jeremy Bullmore, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 09 February 2012 08:00AM

Q. My advertising has just been named as some of the most irritating of last year. Sales of my brand were up 4 per cent though. Should I be bothered about the survey?

On The Campaign Couch ... with JB

A. If you're planning to jump ship within the next couple of years, then you needn't be in the least bothered. The person who should be greatly bothered is your successor.

Irritating advertising has two effects. The first is fairly immediate; the second takes longer. The first lures marketing directors and agencies into thinking they've been brilliant; the second leaves brands handicapped for life. The reasons are obvious.

A new person joins your group at work. Jonty tells jokes, though not very good ones. He hums; not a soft, happy hum but a high, atonal hum. He hands round bags of tortilla crisps and ruffles Maureen's hair when he comes in in the morning. Within two weeks, Jonty's the most talked-about member of the team. "That Jonty - he's quite something," people say. He's at the top of everybody's spontaneous awareness list. He's achieved salience.

When brands achieve salience through irritating advertising, they move up shopping lists. Their abrasiveness confers on the brand a kind of notoriety. Supermarket buyers notice. Distribution increases and so does market share.

Like Jonty, however, such brands fail to win our affection. Tolerant amusement soon gives way to mild distaste and then to antipathy.

Attractive brand characteristics take years to be assimilated. They coalesce round a brand entirely through association and as slowly as coral. Brand managers in a hurry, and with a KPI linked to quarterly volume growth, have little time, in either sense, for all this stuff. Why should they, when overnight notoriety can deliver a bit of instant gratification? And why should they worry about 2014 when they'll be off by then?

The trouble is, when a brand's reputation has mutated from cheeky chappie to pain-in-the butt, which happens with disconcerting rapidity, there's no instant antidote. It takes as long to decontaminate a brand (ask the Conservatives) as it does to nurture it in the first place.

If I were you, I'd call your favourite executive placement person without delay.

Q. Dear Jeremy, I'm a student trying to get into advertising but am not having much luck. Sympathetic to my plight while exasperated at me moping around the house, my dad decided to write to one of the UK's biggest agencies (and one on which my heart was set) on my behalf. I'm mortified as this will have thereby surely scuppered any chance that I may have had with this agency and presumably annoy others it has contact with. How do I extricate myself from this situation with any credibility left intact?

A. As all the books will have told you, when hundreds of able applicants apply for the same vacancy, only those that stand out from the crowd have a chance. It's obviously best if they stand out through exceptional achievement or through the recommendation of a giant client. But any distinction is better than none - and I'll bet that you're the only applicant whose daddy has written in on his lad's behalf. Already you'll have been noticed.

You now need to write yourself. The letter itself should be short: "I wanted you to see the letter I have today sent to my father."

And the letter you've sent to your father should say:

"Dear Father,

"You have always known that the ad agency I have admired above all others, and the one I would pledge my soul to work for, is GBH. I have never deluded myself that my chances were high. It's known throughout the industry that its standards are of the highest and that it routinely receives more than 500 applicants for each one offered an interview. But for all my realism, I held on to one small spark of irrational hope - because that's what an all-consuming sense of purpose does to a person. Finally to accept that an opportunity with GBH was an impossibility would have been to close a door on the rest of my life.

"But now you, my own father, as if I were some milksop, by secretly writing to GBH on my behalf, have elected to slam that door in my face.

"I will continue to search for a place with an agency. But we will both have to live with the knowledge that, when I find it, as I will, and however rewarding it may be, I'll be forever bound to the second best."

The good news is that this tactic can't fail to work. The bad news is that your father will take the credit for it.

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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